miércoles, 23 de diciembre de 2015

Common mistakes when implementing. Mexican government is no exception.

Today I write about the new controversial regulations to control traffic and drivers that Mexico city´s government is trying to implement. I also describe and link this attempt to control traffic and to change driver´s culture in Mexico, to common mistakes done by companies when trying to implement something; a new process, a new tool, a new software, etc. The lessons Mexican government is teaching, I believe, are, invaluable.  

Recently there's been a lot of controversy in Mexico, due to changes done to the traffic regulations. Among the restrictions are that drivers cannot use their cellphones while driving, drivers mustn't invade the crosswalks, the use of the horn, etc. In reality, many of this restrictions have been there forever, but the controversy is on the fines. Some of them have gone insane (from my point of view) considering that Mexico has a deep corruption problem. Some fines are as high as $117.00 Usd. For those reading from the US or Canada or Asia, take those $117.00 and multiply by 17 and will get an idea what a fine feels like in Mexico.
The main problem the government is trying to solve, is the way mexicans drive. Drivers here do not respect pedestrians nor cyclists. We don`t even respect other drivers and because of the way Mexico City is planned, it becomes a chaos driving here. Mobility is a problem. So the government thought that hardening fines would help to modify our behaviour as drivers. Some people think that this is only a way to collect money from citizens. But as this isn't a political blog, won´t go there. Instead will analyze briefly what mistakes has committed the government when implementing changes and increasing the fines.

Lack of communication

Is true that in successful organizations, communication is a top priority. Successful organizations make sure changes are communicated to all members at all levels. To help to understand why the change is needed and how it will be conducted. In our case, the communication from the government has been simple but not yet effective. Since modifications haven´t been explained in detailed and the reason why hardening regulations is ambiguous. The government says it is to avoid accidents and reduce mortality. How ever they haven´t shared any data so we can really see a before - after difference or improvement.

Lack of Clarity

These recent days, drivers have been extra cautious and people resist to adopt the new regulations. In great part because they do not understand what the government wants to solve by improving this regulations, but also, because most of the new regulations aren´t clear to us; the citizens, nor the police men who are supposed to apply the fines. As Karen Martin often explains, lack of clarity will often bring resistance to change. 

Lack of visual management

One of the most controversial regulations, are the speed regulations. It is supposed to fixed the speed according to the type of avenue. Primary avenues, allow a maximum of 80 kmh, while secondary avenues allow only 50 kmh. Small streets, like those in the neighbourhoods, allow a max. of 35 kmh. The problem is that nobody explains what is a primary avenue or a secondary.
In Mexico City is very common to witness images like this
where cars, trucks and cyclists move together in  dangerous
ways. Wrong culture in the streets.
And unfortunately there aren't enough signs or visual aids in the streets so drivers can see clearly what´s the maximum speed allowed. This is a critical missing tool, since it is very common to drive long distances without a single sign on the maximum speed. Other common place are intersections. There are a lot of intersections without crosswalks, or with no clear identification on the street´s directions.  Visual management in industrial environments usually gives feedback to the worker, to see if he/she is falling behind, if there is enough material, if more material is needed, or where scrap or reworks or defects should be placed and when it becomes necessary to take care of them. I have always thought that streets should clearly give feedback to people. Providing information about speed, places where it is correct to cross, walk or drive. 

Common place in Mexico city. The first light is green and
a few meters later is red. Lack of standardisation and visual
When and where is necessary to stop and promote flow of people. Other major problem are green and/or red lights, since the city doesn´t have a synchronised network to allow flow. Is really common that in the same avenue, one light is red, and one block before is green. This is basic to protect pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. And also necessary to promote mobility (flow).

No Poka yokes

With a chaotic environment like the one I described before, is clear that streets and avenues need better planning.  If we sum the lack of standardisation and visual management, plus the wrong practices and poor culture when driving, we have as a result a city where is really a nightmare driving. That´s why have streets that do not allow law breakage is fundamental. Consider the factors iIhave described before and will clearly see why it doesn´t just work having lines painted on the floor and call it bikeway (see below´s picture). To really protect citizens, a little bit more infrastructure is required; poka yokes that do not allow cars to trespass the limits. Probably in Norway couple of lines painted on the floor work, but definetely do not work here in México. 
Most of the bikeways do not have anything to protect cyclists against
cars invading the lane. 

No going to gemba.

Finally, this example gives the government the opportunity to go out to the streets and see for themselves if the new regulations are actually protecting people from having accidents while promoting flow. Also the opportunity to learn and adapt rules and laws according to the reality, that we, as citizens, are facing. Of course, as many failed implementations, leaders do not take the opportunity to go to the source and validate their proposals. I have seen many leaders (including myself) thinking that proposals, or ideas, or rules implemented would work perfectly on the real world, when in reality they are not. This is in a way, arrogance, because we, sometimes think that our solutions work perfectly and there´s no need to improve or adapt any aspect of our proposal. Lean is powerful, because allow humility inherent in seeing, learning and experimenting to determined if our solution is the best. 

Hopefully our government would take a step out of the office and see for themselves. Most important, hopefully, by watching and learning, would take appropriate countermeasures to allow moving in this city would be more pleasent and safe.

Thanks for reading, I would love to read your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.

lunes, 14 de diciembre de 2015

Humility, lean leadership & Deming.

Last weekend saw the great documentary from NBC about Japanese industry and how Japan was able, after WWII , to overcome obstacles and become one of the most productive nations in the world. The documentary If Japan Can, why can't we introduced in the 80's to Dr. Edwards Deming to US where he was almost unknown. He was one of some who helped the Japanese to rebuild their industry. His ideas and teachings were revolutionary at that time, and they still are. But one thing caught my eye, while I was watching the documentary and notice that even though he is recognized as the man who helped the Japanese to rebuild the industry, he never talks about him. Instead he gives credit to the japanese, who have learned and embrased his methods and teachings. The only time where he refers to himself is at 01:03:19 when he gives credit to the Japanese, stating:

I think that I was the only man in 1950 to believe that the Japanese could invade the market of the world and would, within 4 years. 

This is an exceptional quote. Instead of saying, I was the man who taught them how to analyze their processes and improve. He could have said that, cause he really played a key roll for the worlds Economy working in Japan.  But I believe, that even though, he could be arrogant, he was not. This is an underlying lesson for all people working and believing that there´s always a way to do things better. 
And for those who don´t have an idea who Deming was. Humility, is something we all should learn and practice.

Christmas time: arrogant chats.

This is December, and I have been involved in several diners, parties, to celebrate one more year. Unfortunately, I have been involved on discussions with people who is so eager to talk about themselves and the things they have achieved and done and ... is really exhausting to hear. And my reflection this time, is to be humble at first. I guess one effective way to engage and connect with people is to be humble. Show respect for people. Lean, claims that people is the most important element in improvement. No wonder why Toyota is replacing robots with humans. If you watch this great documentary, you can see Deming talking about Japanese with great respect. He talks about the workforce and the management. Those 2 elements, plus his methods, gave a tremendous competitive advantage and they quickly became a synonym of quality and productivity, and still today, they are really committed to quality and improvements: Think Sony´s quality. 
So, I know that it is important self confidence, and to have the belief in yourself. Specially when you`re leading changes in any organization. But there is a difference between arrogance and self confidence. I wonder how those guys, with big watches, tremendous achievements, glorious results, could engage with front line workers? The ironic part, is that most businesses promote this behaviour. And those guys who scream their achievements, are the ones who get promoted. And it´s really sad, because that creates a tremendous dissatisfaction in the workforce. If you ever get to read this post, please be humble and promote the right behaviour at companies.

Thank´s for reading. I would love to read you`re thoughts. Please leave a comment below.

miércoles, 2 de diciembre de 2015

Recognition: necessary at all levels.

I have recently helped an organization to get a certification, because of its performance and practices regarding Lean and Six Sigma. This certification is provided by the corporate office to certify the level each of its facilities held regarding Lean and Six Sigma. I helped this organization coaching and facilitating most of all. But it was the supervisors effort, motivation and the associates interest which made possible to achieve this recognition. They all made a great effort but one supervisor made an extraordinary effort to encourage his people to, not only practice, but to investigate further and teach others, giving the opportunity for them to give small presentations. Allowing the people to grow and learn. 

Recognition to those who deserve it.  
Dr. Eduard Deming.

I made a public display about the situation described above. The supervisor was overwhelmed, and thanked me, for recognising his efforts. I am not his direct supervisor, but i believe that we should give credit to people, when something extraordinary happens or when something outstanding is encouraged.  During the certification the plant manager conducted the gemba walk and when the certification was over, and the award was given, nobody was even close to it, as the manager took it and never let it go. I notice that all VPs and Directors started sending congratulations for the facility and the manager, but also notice that nobody forwarded those notes to the supervisors or the people who actually performed the job every day.  I understood that as well as front line workers, some managers also need recognition. The problem I see, is when they get recognition, but do not share it with the rest of the team. 
I think that recognition is powerful, because through recognition people find purpose. They feel they are contributing to the team. It was Dr. Deming who said:

If someone can make a contribution to the company he feels important.
This is a great thought. Simple, powerful, and yet sometimes we fail to recognize when people does something big, and deserves to be congratulated.  How many times do we congratulate people at job? What about our own family? What about our wife or parents? Of course, there is a reason why we usually focus on negative things, instead of focusing and promote the good things in life. This is true specially in organizations where culture has been hierarchical and do not promote development of people.  But instead promote growth of managers only. Lean approach, is completely different. Lean is about people and about trust in people. Sometimes we tend to prejudge people, thinking they cannot innovate or do things differently, just because their rol isn´t within management. But Dr. Deming also said:

Innovation comes from people who take joy in their work.
To build joy in every workers job, we need to start practicing respect for people. Respect for people involves people at the top too. But we should´t forget front line workers. Respect people´s opinion, challenge them to think, to learn, to experiment, to grow, to improve. That´s respect for people. Listen to their opinions. Have an open mind to accept that managers aren´t always right, and realizing that workers know more about the job, than we can imagine.
Dr. Deming was a great example of this quote. He worked until the last moment of his life. He died at age of 93 and he was still working. This clearly shows that he had a great joy in what he was doing. So, If we want to turn our companies in sources of innovation, if we want to make a contribution and take pride of our work, we better start recognizing people. Don´t know how? How about start with your children, wife or a friend. Lets start identifying those small things we all do everyday, that really make a difference. Soon, recognition will become a habit.

Thank´s for reading. I would love to read your thoughts. Don´t be shy, and leave a comment down here.

jueves, 26 de noviembre de 2015

Lean is simple, but it requires structure & discipline

For those like me who like to watch soccer, will find that team FC Barcelona is a team that every soccer fan loves to see. It doesn´t matter if one is fan from that team or not, simple the way Barcelona is playing is fantastic. They, as well as lean manufacturers, share a philosophy and they practice it when they play. Their philosohpy is about creating the game, holding the ball, being patient and create spaces between enemy lines, where they can take advantage with the amazing forwards Barcelona has. When they loose the ball, they try to recover it as fast as they can. They feel comfortable with the ball at their feet.  Soccer looks easy when is played by them. Simple and easy looks lean when properly executed. The workers seem to perform at a smooth pace. The harmony  and flow are present in all operations. As well as team work and as well as engagement from employees. Results are the natural consequences when lean is properly executed. As well as Barcelona´s results.   
Luis Suarez, Neymar and Messi form the fearsome front for
the FC Barcelona
Some people may differ from this perspective that Barcelona´s way of playing is lean or even simple. Since they structure so much every play. Sometimes they need to have the ball, for long periods, before they even suggest a play in the rival area. But when they execute, Soccer seems simple. It is true, that in this comparison, Barcelonas way of play is like lean. Simple, effective but needs a structure, and needs discipline. In both, soccer and business, patience is key. 

Lean needs structure.

Some people say that Lean is simple. But in order for Lean to work in it´s full power, needs a good structure. You cannot just say that will implement a few tools and will become Lean the next morning. It requires training, patience and understanding of the principles leveraged by companies, such as Toyota. When you walk into a Lean organization. The tools are evident, and sometimes easy to use. What we don't see is behind the ropes. Behind the ropes, there is a well organised structure that helps to sustain Lean. Lets say that in order to shine, needs someone to do the dirty job. Materials management departments are the greatest example for this. They allow to move the materials across the organization, so that the worker installing a tail lamp, installs the right lamp, at the exact moment, in the right sequence. In order for the worker to do that, a manufacturing team may have studied carefully the necessary conditions under which humans are more likely to perform better. Those engineers may have studied and formulated the right conditions to be applied in the floor; such as complexity in the work station, the right amount of tools the worker needs to have. Too many tools and the worker may fall behind cycle time, since there is a high possibility that his mind make a mistake and choose the wrong tool, and would loose precious seconds. Too little and may not be able to perform according to the plan, and may produce a defect. Things like this, help a worker to be really be efficient at his job. What we might see, is a well trained worker, performing according to a standard, but what we don`t see is what´s behind the ropes: the design of the work station´s conditions. 
Ford Fiesta at the Cuautitlan Stamping and Assembly
Plant in Mexico.
In the automotive industry there are different teams, with "different" purposes, that sometimes seem to be opposite. For example the manufacturing team typically sets its targets according to productivity, improve cycle time, increase value added content at work stations, make process efficient enough so less workers may be utilised to assemble a car, etc. The torques team may be involved in ensuring all torques are tightened according to spec, make more audits to make sure the bolts are tightened correctly, they may even work with suppliers to get rid of noise in the bolts coming to the factory. The materials management team may be worried about stopping the line, about meeting cycle times, about scanning 100% of materials to ensure they are delivering the right materials at the right workstations. And supervisors may be worried about andon lights, analyze them and understand why certain workstations call for help more often than others. They all strive to provide the best conditions to the workers performing in the line. The worker doesn´t have to worry about not having the right parts available, or the right tools, or the error proofing devices to avoid defects on the line. That way they can fully focus on the process, get deep understanding of it, and put their brains to work thinking about improve the process, how to make more with the same or less, or suggesting subtle changes to sequences to avoid defects or improve productivity.

But Lean is simple right?

Yes, the simplicity in this example I`m giving is that if you provide the right conditions to the worker, the worker will perform according to a plan. For the process to be simple, you have to make it simple. But for the process to achieve simplicity, may require manpower, tools, dedication and constant experimentation. Lets not forget creativity and engagement. The equation is simple, better conditions, will produce the best possible results.
Many people do not understand this, and believe that just implementing a few tools, will turn the company or the process into Toyota. This is far from truth. Sometimes you will need to invest, to use people, to use some resources so they will give you knowledge. The knowledge will be used at your convenience. To take the best decisions and to ultimately make your process better. Typically, the best process, is the simplest process. But in order to achieve simplicity, patience, structure, methodology and a lot of time is required. If you do not agree with me, do you think Toyota became the world´s greatest manufacturer in 10 years?

So, in the end Barcelona is Lean.

I believe they are lean at some degrees. As i mentioned, you may watch Lionel Messi, dribbling against defenders with grace  and speed. But sometimes for Messi to shine the way he does, the team sets the structure and the pace for him to take advantage of it. We may only see Lionel scoring, once, or twice. But the work behind that is what allows him to be the shining star in the best team of the world. I guess the lesson is, if you wan't to be in the best company in the world, you better be prepared to experiment, learn and to get knowledge from your process, so one day, can be simple and lean.

Thanks for reading, I wan't to read if you agree or not. Don't be shy and leave a message.

jueves, 19 de noviembre de 2015

Being like water, Lean Six Sigma or Lean and Six Sigma?

In recent years, many companies have developed their own lean version of the TPS, to try to keep competitive and get advantages against competition. Some others have incorporated Six Sigma methodology to their Lean based system. The general idea is that combining two powerful methodologies, or systems into one is better to achieve results even faster than using just one.
I remember that during my years in Ford, Six Sigma was the main methodology used for problem solving, even though  the 8D´s were also used, along with some other statistical tools to help identify were the root cause of the problem was. At the same time Ford used some lean tools to try to build cars more efficiently, such as Andon buttons, kitting, visual management, one piece flow principles, etc. I remember that one of the managers was a big fan of the TPS and the Toyota philosophy. He actually worked for a couple of years in Japan for Mazda, during the period when Ford and Mazda were working closely and Ford had a major participation on Mazda stocks. 
I guess that in this environment Lean and Six Sigma were used successfully, but sometimes felt that Six Sigma was more important when solving a problem. 
Today there are a lot of organisations using Lean Six Sigma, and I have identify common mistakes when combining these two powerful methods or philosophies. 

DMAIC above all.

When solving a problem, I´ve always thought that one should use the tool that fits the problem better. Or solves the problem better should I say. This means that If one is able to get deep knowledge about an issue and therefore develop a simple great solution, should´t matter if a 5 whys was used, or if the answer was obtained through a regression.  Some organizations using Lean Six Sigma, seem really obsessed about using DMAIC methodology. DMAIC as some may know is the Six Sigma cycle to improve processes that already exist, and through the use of this cycle, it is expected that processes experience a dramatic improvement. But I have found this isn`t always practical. As there are  problems, where a well conducted 5 whys or even an 8D´s are better tools according to the nature of the problem. 
But LSS organizations, seem to be inflexible about it and some of them demand that the standard problem solving technique would be DMAIC even if this isn`t practical. Organizations obsessed with a single standard problem solving tool, or template create bureaucracy and excess motion. Wastes that Lean wants to eliminate. The obsession about using an specific tool, makes solving problems a slow process. If to this point you do not agree with me, try conducting a Value Stream Transformation and make it fit into the DMAIC cycle.

Six Sigma can be applied to everything.

Other pitfall i have witnessed is that organizations think that 6 sigma could be applied to everything. This isn't completely wrong, but there are certain environments where 6 sigma could be better applied than others. For example, industries or organisations where variation is high and processes seem to be really complicated. Where there seem to be multiple factors creating an specific issue, could be a good point where 6 sigma could work. But definitely there are other environments where may not work as good. These environments are where no SPC programs, or techniques exist, or where there isn't in place a good system to get reliable information from the process. The question I think, isn't if 6 Sigma can be applied to any situation. Instead we should ask ourselves if 6 sigma should be applied to every single situation. Is there another tool that could be applied in a simpler or more effective way for this specific situation? Flexibility when solving problems or improving processes is the key. It was Bruce Lee who said:

You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.

Every single improvement is a project. 

Some companies using LSS, believe that every single improvement should be a 6 Sigma project. Even when the solution is obvious. Personally I don´t like the word project, because a project requires someone to own it, and also brings the implicit thinking that the project has an owner and he/she should worry about it, not me. Also It implies that a project is something that has a beginning and ending. Lean as most of us know, is a journey that never ends. 

Finally, the last mistake I have seen about the use of 6 Sigma, or obsession with 6 Sigma should I say, is that as 6 Sigma is often used for issues where the answer is evident. 6 sigma works better where the solution is unknown. If you already know the answer, why wasting time justifying your decision using DMAIC, if the solution could be applied now, and not after 2 hours of statistical debate? Solving problems, improving processes is critical. Is the core for great companies. Using the right tool, is critical. Doing it fast, efficient and simple is the key to succeed in the long run. There fore, Become like water, my friends.

Thanks for reading, I´d love to read your thoughts, please leave a comment.

miércoles, 4 de noviembre de 2015

Review of the week: Understanding Variation, The key to managing chaos

As Black Belt, got to admit, that sometimes one tend to think that everything is statistics. That a statistical tool can reveal a relationship between a critical x and the output. That inertia of starting analyzing if a set of data is normal or not, if the cp or cpk is higher than 1.66 or if the gage R&R used to obtained that data is reliable.

Yes, of course, Green or Black Belts have a tendency of jumping right away and perform statistical analysis. This is exactly when this great book make sense. Understanding Variation, The key to managing chaos, isn`t a book about how to use tools to perform fancy analysis. Is about using the right tools to take decisions and to understand what`s going on on our processes. The book is more an eye opener about how to use the basic control charts to understand the variation that affects a process.

It is essential to understand that there are extraordinary events that happen and affect the performance of a process. It is important to note this, in order to decide whether or not to take action to maintain control over a process. This is a key rule to understand and remind when analysing data. The fact that a single point is out of control doesn't mean the process is completely out of control. When a point exhibits an unusual behaviour, we need to ask ourselves if there was an external agent that cause the process to behave this way. In this case, we need to examine this point alone, and not the whole process. The process may be well in control,  but this point may reflect external causes affecting the process. In this case tools to examine special cause variation may help; 8Ds. So, if one single point doesn´t always mean that we need to take action or doesn´t always mean that the process is performing bad, maybe a couple of points would do the trick right? Well, that`s another thing this book explains better. Sometimes, specially when we analyze results, most organizations tend to compare one single month vs the same month from last year, or if we want to analyze further we may add the previous month from this year in the equation. As it is displayed in the book, this isn´t enough either. Many companies today focus on the current month, if we´re lucky, in the current year. Sometimes 6 or 12 data points doesn´t offer the whole information. In other to correctly identify if a process has changed; improved or worsened. The book shows some examples on how, looking just a portion of data, might not provide enough information to take the right decisions; interpreting this data would lie to us. In some cases we need to go back 2 or even three years to clearly see why sometimes the process does achieve the targets and why some other cases do not. This is another key rule. If a process hasn´t been changed for better or worse it is impossible that alone would be able to always meet targets. In this sense, the book will give an specific observation: arbitrary targets are exactly that, arbitrary. And sometimes do not have something to do with the process itself. A great insight in this subject is given in the book.

When a process looks stable, without points behaving in weird ways, it is necessary to analyze the process as a whole. In this case, this is common cause variation. Under this scenario six sigma tools are useful. Either to reduce variation or to make a shift in the process. This is key, because, how many times a manager has requested explanations on a single point? how many times a manager has ignored the sings from a process requesting help? Understanding this two types of variation will help to any person who examines a process to distinguish when action is needed and when isn´t. This book is a great reminder of the basic statistical rules used in SPC to observe a process and how to correctly look at data to take the best decisions the process can tell. The book includes some study cases so the reader is able to understand and see clearly how the traditional method to analyze data reveals a reality completely different when using the right tool and applying the principles of variation.

So, no matter if you are related to SPC or 6 sigma methodologies, or if you just want to understand what`s going on on your process, this book will help you to understand what the process is telling you. In consequence will reveal the voice of the process and will help you to take the most appropriate decision.
Really a great, simple and powerful book for any manager to read.

Thank´s for reading. I`d love to read your thoughts. Please, don't be shy and leave a comment.

miércoles, 21 de octubre de 2015

Stop complaining...

There was a controversial video released by the Mexican Government. In the video the phrase Stop complaining appeared, and it was interpreted like the Government was telling the citizens to stop complaining about the different troubles that Mexico faces.
Mexico, as you may be aware, faces a big security crisis. Drug cartels continue to rule the country, Drug Lord Joaquín Guzman escaped from prison a few months ago and the economy isn´t going well. So it is no surprise that everybody has criticised how the government is performing. And when I say everybody, I mean, everybody. 
So, thinking about that, last week I heard an interesting coverage on the radio, about competitiveness. The story talked about how NAFTA was supposed to be the ticket for Mexico to go into the Major Leagues. "We are going to be in the first world" the Government said, but nobody told us that in order to do so, we needed to compete against the companies and the products from developed countries. The results, 30 years later, are that we haven´t been able to keep up. We lost the train and missed an incredible opportunity to learn and grow as a society. In the coverage, different examples were given, from Uber and how cab drivers have made demonstrations to put pressure on authorities to stop the fast growing pace Uber is taking, to how Walmart is taking over the market, and how small local marketplaces seem unable to compete with the giant. Most of the small, local companies in México have shut down operations, because they haven´t been able to compete with foreign products. Most recently we`re blaming China.

Where Does Lean fit?

This context reminds me to what every Lean authority explains. Lean is mostly about Respect for people. Allow the people to express themselves, to make suggestions, to allow them to apply those suggestions to improve the process, allow the people to experiment, allow them to learn and evolve and grow. 
By doing so, we will be engaging the people in a Continuous improvement cycle that will enable your company or organization to innovate, improve everyday, to become more efficient, safe, fair, organization and at the same time will have the processes to satisfy your customers and actually make money of it. But in order to achieve such ideal state, the employees must participate as well. Contributing with ideas, being open and expressing honestly what it´s going on within daily operations. Here, leaders must respond. After hearing carefully to the employees, leaders must take action. If a worker suggests a change in the process, the leaders must act quickly, reach a consensus and implement rapidly. Otherwise the worker who submitted a suggestion might think that this is only bullshit. And finally the trust is lost, if leaders do not respect, not only by listening, but actually by implementing as well. In this metaphor, this is exactly what the Government has failed to do. To respond to population demands, to reach consensus and of course have failed to rapidly implement. 
Exports of Crude Oil have slowdown in recent years. While
Imports from US have risen, closing the gap with Mexico. Source: EIA
How ever, citizens and society has failed to take a more active role too. I`m not talking about making a demonstration to demand the government to take action. I`m talking to be more competitive in our jobs, improve the way we live, the way we drive, and the way we act. Competitiveness is the greatest example. Uber is not going away because some cab drivers protest and demand the authorities to stop the company for growing and literally eat the market. Why instead, aren´t they trying to improve the service, security and cost? How much are we responsible for the problems our country is facing? and most important What can we do to revert this situation? In order to embark on a Continuous Improvement Cycle, it is required that leaders as well as workers commit themselves to try at least once. Leaders must commit to listen and to take action. Workers to collaborate, proposed and share their knowledge. Both need commitment to trust on each other. Trust, obviously, is something that needs to be build. But can be attainable if there´s will to accomplish a better future. For companies and for countries. 

Thanks for reading, would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment or share if you liked the post.

martes, 13 de octubre de 2015

What can a soccer game teach us about lean?

Last Saturday there was a soccer game between the national teams of United States and Mexico. They played for the opportunity to attend to the Confederations Cup, a tournament that usually takes place 1 year before the World Cup. Typically this tournament is played at the same country where the World Cup will be played and with the Champions from all of the confederations in the world. The Champion from South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Concacaf, which is where US and MX play.  This last game played on Saturday was won by Mexico, scoring a dying goal in the last minute to win 3 - 2 over the greatest rival in the zone. I`ve heard that this national team from US was`t playing at it´s best. Also heard criticism to the German trainer, and former Champion of the World, Jürgen Klinsmann since he hasn´t been able to surpass the success from previous managers that have trained US national Soccer Team. But, for me, being a mexican who enjoyed the game, and also liked the way our mexican team played, see, as a lean thinker (or at least trying to be one) many signs why Americans shouldn´t  worried about men´s National Team. 

System and Processes Standardization

US Soccer Federation relies on a system that has proven to be successful in other countries. Most teams in the MLS have a development area that scouts young players and develop their skills in order to prepare them for the teams in MLS. Other countries such as Argentina, have a similar system which has proven to be really successful to produce young players and talent. Currently Argentina´s National Team is the number 1 in the world, according to Fifa World Ranking. The Mexican league also exhibits different approach from the MLS. The teams in Mexico hire a lot of players coming from Southamerica. They don´t like to invest in youngsters. Costs too much and requires time. So, its easier to hire players from Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina or Brasil. Many of them come first to Mexico, hoping to have a good season and possibly sign for a better team in Europe or come back South. Here in Mexico it is very difficult for a young player to receive an opportunity and be able to play. Cause players from South america, usually receive all attention and in some cases must play to reimburse the investment. Even if they aren´t having a great performance. In lean terms we can say that the US Soccer federation focus on the customer vs a cost decision policy used by the Mexican Federation. The results are stunning: Since 2000 Mexico has won 6 games, 5 draws and 13 victories for the US. Clearly the system is delivering consistent results. Not only for victories but almost for the same score of 2-0. Despite the results Mexico still bets on variability hoping that history will help the players overcome the system implemented in US.

Long Term Thinking

Also the US federation promotes long term projects, which means that unless something really strange happens, will keep Jürgen Klinsmann leading the Soccer Team. If we review the quantity of managers the US National Team has had since 2000, we can see that only three different coaches have passed through that position. As we, lean thinkers have seen over the past years, stability is something desired. Since we can manage the processes better, as we know they are stable and results can be predicted. In Soccer long term projects often bring tremendous results. If you`re not familiar with Sir Alex Ferguson, recommend you to read The Official Manchester United Celebration of his career at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex, with Premier League and FA Cup. In 1999 he also
also won the Champions League.
This guy, managed to stayed with the Red Devils for 25 years, winning everything a manager in Europe could desire. The Mexican Football Federation has managed to have 6 different coaches in 5 years. It is impossible to establish a project with this variation introduced in the system. Mexico clearly do not have a system to select, support and maintain coaches. Mexican team success relies in great manner on players individual skills, rather than the system to sustain victories.


The US Federation seem to have a similar approach to the PDCA. If you review, specially the Bruce Arenas phase, clearly there was a Plan there. In fact, the Federation has said a few times that they want to win the World Cup & their plan started right after 1994.  That was the plan, they have Done some great work, the numbers are clear. They have executed the plan. Now they have more wins over Mexico and clearly US is the Team in the Area.  Currently they are in the Study phase. The Federation is analysing to take a decision. Wether or not get rid of Klinsman. But notice that have been 3 days since Saturday´s game. If Klinsman had been coaching Mexico, he would be unemployed by now. This clearly shows that the US Federation studies and takes decisions by consensus. Does that phrase ring the bell? Studying, analyzing that´s taking action too.
PDSA cycle.

Mexico on the other hand, do not have a plan. The Mexican federation do not know what works for us to win cups. They don´t understand why they loose, either. The proof that the Mexican Federation does`t have a plan, is that the coach who managed the national team on Saturday, is leaving, and the Mexican team will have a new coach this same week. Crazy right? He won the big game on Saturday, and yet he´s leaving. And yes we will have the 7th coach in 5 years.

Lean thinkers see waste in details. Details such as soccer. As we could see in this brief analysis, lean thinkers also tend to remain calm when everybody else worries. Maybe that`s why, while all the world wants Klinsman out, some how, he is still the manager. Is like when you look at a control chart. Analyze a little bit, and decide that you will not take action. Since the graph reveals that the process is in control and stable.
These are my reasons to believe that americans should´t worry so much about soccer and their current coach. Mexicans on the other hand, better enjoy this victory, cause I´m not sure it will be a nice road to Russia 2018.

As always, thanks for reading. Would love to read your thoughts. Don´t be shy and leave a comment.

miércoles, 7 de octubre de 2015

Is technology the only way to improve productivity?

We are living interesting times, at least in Mexico, these days. There is a discussion about the minimal wage and of course how much should this wage be. The goverment decided to fix the minimal wage through out the country. 70.10 pesos was the amount fixed (about 4 Usd per day), that will be used across the whole country. For those who don`t live in Mexico, should know that in the past, there were two economic zones with different minimal wages: zone A and B. Being A the zone where more economic activities are held and therefore the minimal wage was higher. México is one of the countries with the lowest wages in Latinamerica. Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Chile, and Argentina have a higher minimal wage. 
Mexico´s productivity compared to other developed
countries from 1991 - 2009Based on data from OCDE.
One of the key components, according to experts, to be able to increase the minimal wage is productivity. It is believed that the more productive the country, more wealth for the citizens. If you are interested about minimal wage this interesting paper from the OIT goes deeper on this topic. Going back to the productivity, the complain from the private sector was that increasing the minimal wage will go against the competitiveness. Some industrial sectors argue that an increase on this subject will hit the cost structures and will make the prices of goods and services go up. In the following analysis  done by CIDAC (Investigation Center for development) is clear that México is last when compared to countries such as South Korea, Ireland and Japan. The productivity of course is measured as production of goods (mainly) between resources used to produce those goods. The following article from CNN explains that in México, for example, an average worker, works 2237 hours a year, compared to a worker in Chile that only works 2015 hours a year.  So, we get the picture, we, mexicans aren't efficient, nor productive. So, how can we increase the minimal wage if we are not productive? Also in this article from CNN, there is a statement that I heard in the radio that almost made crush my car in the highway. An expert on productivity and economic development was saying that: 

We need Technology in order to be more productive, and for that, we need to invest more to be really competitive. 

In the article from CNN I found a similar statement that said:

When the company automates processes, is more likely to become more productive. how you do this? Through practical measures, such as helping the employee to understand what`s expected from them and training to be able to perform over and over again.

Ok, lets analyse both statements. The first one makes me angry. Technology isn't the only way to become more productive. I believe that technology works when actually solves a problem for you. Think about Taichi Ohno back in his days at Toyota factories. He didn´t have a cell phone, an app, or a computer. Yet he managed to create a great system to be more productive, respectful, and safe, A system that now, everybody talks about. Did he invest huge quantities of money to get the latest technology in order to be productive? No! as the Toyota Way states, Toyota only uses tested and reliable technology. And I should add, that actually solves a problem for them. 
Toyota is going back to Kaizen, for that they are trusting in people instead 
The following article talks about how Toyota is replacing robots with... Yes! you guessed. Humans! This obviously defies the statement that in order to be productive and efficient, you need the latest technology. As my manager used to say, back in my days at Ford. All automakers use the same robot´s brand, the same suppliers, similar tools, the design of cars is pretty much alike, and yet Toyota is the most profitable of all. This is because they know that the difference isn´t in the tool, but in the thinking and management behind the decision of acquire or reject that tool.
The second statement, well I partially agree. But I would say it differently. I think when you improve the processes to be more effective, safer and simpler, the company is more likely to be more productive, more competitive. Of course, engaging employees and explain them what´s expected from their job, explaining why is the job important is esencial to build ownership. Also training is required for the worker to perform in a stable standard way. But the key thing that will lead to innovation and a jump in the competitiveness of the company is the worker´s brain applied to continuously improve the methods, the processes, the way we work everyday. This is a lean basic. And that´s why lean has tremendous possibilities, specially in countries like México. Where changes are needed and Lean can be applied to the industry in a wide variety of ways. Unfortunately most of the leaders, "experts" and TV/Radio hosts believe, that the only way is Technology in the form of robots, software, programs, without considering if it´s really solving a problem. 
Also for the industrial sectors that state that increasing the minimal wage will make them less competitive, think twice. Think about products and companies that are highly profitable. Their products aren´t cheap at all, yet everybody wants an iPhone 6s, or a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Eventhough doing coffee in your house is far cheap. This shows that taking care of your employees isn`t against profitability. If the company takes care of its employees, pays them well, allow them to grow, the company will grow even more as the employees will remember and notice when they are being treated with respect and kindness.

Please share your thoughts on this topic! Thanks for reading.

miércoles, 30 de septiembre de 2015

Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande... Review of the week

Today, I will start writing about some books, articles, and sources of information about Lean & also 6 Sigma. Since I´m close to 1000 visits to this blog, and I´m super excited, wanted to share with you my thoughts on The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

I came across this book, because I was struggling to implement a control tool on a warehouse and needed to get some fuel about what others have accomplished or what other organizations have implemented with success. The Title, The Checklist Manifesto was for me, intriguing. As I have stated on other posts, my background is on the Manufacturing Side, so I remember that once I ran an experiment to try between different tools and demonstrate, with data, which one was the most effective to avoid mistakes. Checklist, was the last tool. Which in my studio meant that it was the least reliable tool of all. Because usually we all start with great enthusiasm using it, but eventually stop doing it, and obviously, doesn´t work anymore. In my studio, a better tool would be a poka yoke, or an error proofing. Andons, proved to be more effective than Checklists, so my curiosity grew. What can a surgeon teach me about how to control a process? I asked my self. Also thought that when there is stagnation in one´s mind, anything out of the box, could lead to pretty good ideas. So I gave it a shot.
Glad I did, the book was a revelation to me. Not because it was a bout checklists, but because it was well written, sometimes looks like I was reading a novel instead of a book about check lists and because If you read carefully, will find elements from Lean that, I don´t think were put there intentionally but In Dr. Atul Gawande may lie a lean thinker, and I´m not sure he is even aware of it.
The chapters will get you in a instant. From the description where a patient almost dies in a hospital because some extraordinary situation at the beginning of the book, to the story where Dr. Gawande almost kills a patient and how his Checklist helped him to save the patients life. There are also good episodes about flying complications and how aviation uses Checklists to control the uncontrollable, or to expect the unexpected. In one chapter Gawande, writes about how flying in poor weather conditions (extremely cold conditions) may lead to ice in the gasoline (or should I say turbosine). This small issue may lead to one potential catastrophe, as one of the engines would not receive enough fuel, and fail. How should captain and first officer  handle an issue like that? With a Checklist, Dr. Gawande should have answered. 
The book isn´t about Checklists. I believe the book talks about Standard Work and how Standard Work helps any industry, from aviation, to construction to health improving the way they work on a daily basis. The book is really about Standardization and describes the discipline to follow procedures. In it, Dr. Atul Gawande gives great examples. Like the terrifying case, that happened a few years ago, where an US Airways flight had to land in the Hudson River. In that case, Dr. Gawande, examines how a goose strike had the plane lost both engines, forcing Captain Sullenberg to land on the icy waters of Hudson. This January, was five years from that "lucky" event. As I was explaining, Dr. Atul examines and concludes that it was due to the exceptional discipline of captain and his first officer, that this miracle was possible. There is no surprise, Standardization requires a great degree of discipline to make sure we stick to the procedure. And often, the results are surprising. That´s why in my studio Checklists didn´t work. But to me, the book talks more about why is Standardisation needed. I believe it is first of all, because it helps to stabilize any process. Removes variation from it. Sets the ground for improvements. Not easy, but the benefits outlooks the sacrifice. I believe this is why, the captain following the procedure, was able to land on Hudson River. Also, the process was really robust and helped the captain to get a good result. In the Book you will read about Dr. Atul´s attemps to set up a checklist for his operating room, and how experimentation was vital, and allowed innovation. This is key. This is really what Lean is about. Experimenting, learning and evolving.

This is really what Lean is about. Experimenting, learning and evolving.

The other nice part that I found in this book, was when Dr. Atul tells how he joined an organization to improve safety across different hospitals in the world. That story reminded me, the old one about the Toyota Sienna development for the American market. I found similarities in the way Dr. Atul went to Gemba and visited the hospitals that would implement the Checklist. How he saw the problems each hospital faced and how each hospital adopted the Checklist, twisting a little bit, to make it fit to each organization, talks about experimentation, learning and improvement.

I´m sure there are other details that I forgot to mention, but this two principles are so clear in the book. So I urge you to read it with fresh eyes. My advice is to read it and see if you can identify some other similarities to the ones explained here, and why not, comment weather or not agree with this review.

Thanks for reading, If you liked this post, share it. Or leave a message below.

lunes, 28 de septiembre de 2015

How Lean Affects the lives of practitioners; a personal journey

To my eyes, looks like Lean practitioners are preparing themselves at all times. It`s not surprise that a typical Lean practitioner writes about the latest book he has readen, share with the audience personnel reflections on situations from work or from his/her own impressions about the latest news.
They seem to be well informed, with the aim of improve their lives, expand their knowledge and looking for weaknesses, in order to improve.
Lean practitioners seem to be constantly preparing themselves
 absorbing knowledge from other authors.

This is intrinsic in the Lean methodology/philosophy. The aim for continuous improvement, never be satisfy, seak for perfection. Lean really gets to the heart of the people. First because they seem to take pride and joy on their work. Also because they believe what they preach. Lean is, for me, about people as it is a system to advance and overcome obstacles. Being people one of the key elements on it, should`t surprise us that Lean practitioners, try to improve their lives as well as their work.

Lean is a journey, a personal one.

It is common that when talking about Lean, companies and practitioners say it is a journey. It`s true. So much has happened, since Toyota started with the idea of stop manufacturing looms and started manufacturing cars. Also so much happened since Deming taught the western industry how to remain competitive and defeat Japanese competition.
And much more, since most big companies started to embrace Lean and some, started to combine it with Six Sigma. Lean has evolved too. But the main principles, remain. Despite the technology, new trends, competition and troubles in the world (Remember 2008 recession) Lean is still the way to improve with the people, and therefore achieve break through results. For pratitioners it`s hard to separate the knowledge and experience acquired through lean from their lives. Usually, Lean practitioners, add their personnel learnings into Lean deployments and their work in general, which seems to resemble old Buddhist masters than business men.
One key characteristic I have found in them, is the knowledge in themselves. They are able to know their weaknesses  as well as their strenghts. That, I believe is a signal of humility and the continuous quest for perfection. Because as you know what to improve in yourself, would be easier to actually improve and evolve as a person and practitioner.

Sharing some personal improvements.

I don`t consider myself an expert or highly skilled Lean practitioner. Since I have been practicing Lean for 6 years now, and still got so much to learn. But right now, I`m going through a period of transformation. Both physical and mental. Since I have started a new nutritional regime to improve my weight, and finally my health.  also through a mental change, since I`m working with a therapist to improve certain aspects in my personality that will improve my quality of life, and I`m sure, will impact my professional life as well.  I know this aren´t the final changes I would be doing. I feel that the more I know about Lean, the more I embrace change easily. I know too, this isn´t easy. Many people do not embrace change as easily, mainly because every change involves leaving old ways and try something new. But to be honest, once one start practicing Lean, and when results are visible it´s  almost like a drug. You can´t stop trying new things.

But not everything is cool in change. For me, accepting that help was needed, wasn´t that simple. Sometimes, may get the feeling that no help is required, since in reality, we help people, we don´t get help. Ego is speaking. And to be honest is tough, accepting that we aren´t superman. It takes guts and humility to understand that before practitioners, we are humans. And as any other human we, sometimes need help. Sometimes that help comes in the form of a therapist, or a personal trainer, or a mentor. Or sometimes a friend, who is able to listen and give some advice. 
It´s true. Lean changes people for the better.

Thanks for reading, I would love to read about changes in your personal life, work or else. Or maybe you're reading something that´s worth telling us about. Please leave a comment or just share if you like this post.

sábado, 12 de septiembre de 2015

Western Obsession for recipes and The five why`s technique.

These days I have thought a lot about how western culture seems to be seeking recipes for success in all areas. In general we all look to follow a method, a scientific way to find solutions, to find success, to achieve what companies such as Toyota has in almost a century of making cars. I guess that`s why people in general is a fan of Checklists. Speaking of which, I will be reviewing The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande in a future post. But anyway. I believe we like this tools because we believe it is a safe way to go into the wild. To reduce risks, and to maximize the chances of success.
This is no trivial because this obsession I believe, lead Motorola & GE to develop the well know 6 sigma methodology.

I have no evidence to support this last statement but I believe that`s why 6 Sigma was born on this side of the planet, well a little bit up North. But as the next article about Six Sigma in Asia sort of explains, difference between Western and Asian Cultures are noticeable.

Lean on the other hand, comes  (as we all know) from Japan, born within the walls of Toyota and to my eyes, Lean is first about people and principles, and when followed and applied, derive in efficient tools that can be apply to a wide range of situations. I believe that cultural difference were significant and were crucial when the first western learners took these information and export them into the US. Of course language was the greatest barrier to fully understand the principles and tools from Toyota. But I think that it was also the obsession to have a recipe for success, which lead to receive some sort of distorted tools and lack of understanding of principles. Fortunately there are leaders such as Mark GrabanSteven SpearKaren Martin, John Shook, and many others that have helped to clarify and expand the knowledge across industries.


All this introduction is to support the following story. I was recently working with a crew making a root cause analysis. Claims have been high for the past weeks and we wanted to know why. It is a requirement that the root cause analysis would be conducted through a Fishbone diagram, a 5 whys technique or both. I prefer other techniques or tools since I believe this could be biased if these tools aren´t supported by evidence. I will explain later why. In this sense, I have always asked myself, how did the creator of the 5 whys defined that 5 were enough? Why asking why and not when, how, who, and others? And why corporations are so emphatic to specifically use 5 whys only? I believe this tool didn´t captured correctly the spirit of improvement, when first brought to America. The key point here is to dive into the issue and asking why,  accompanied by who, when, how, how many etc. Of course, also having facts, and/or data. Understand the problem is the main idea. During the session to capture ideas and define what was the root cause, I didn´t use the 5 whys as the company demands. Instead, requested evidence, data, facts and it was more like a dialogue. A discussion with the team members, to understand the underlying issue causing all of the symptoms. I guess we did a pretty good job, and more important is that people got involved. My personal conclusions are that sometimes you got to use the tool that fits better the problem you`re facing. Or as the Lean practitioners say, according to the problem that you`re trying to solve.

Why do I think these tools could be biased?

Because the way they have been thought. For example, I was taught that a 5 whys technique, you should start asking why is this problem happening? answering because..., and then ask why again on the response given, and answer again, and after asking 5 whys you´ll have the root cause. But if this is based on unverified assumptions our mind can trick us, and lead the solution where our subconscious wants. I´ll give an example:

On the same exercise, one of the team members pointed out the valid fact that we had new personnel and if training was´t complete and properly executed of course quality would decrease. We have an unusual high rotation, influenced by a number of different factors. So we dived on the lack of training of new personnel. Everybody agreed that it would be an issue. But is it an issue today? not sure. One of the supervisors said, "I think it does´t have anything to do. We know our training isn´t the best but is not the main issue right now".

Lets conduct a 5 whys before knowing how the story ends.

Lack of training on new personnel.

Why? Because there isn´t enough time to train. 
Why? Because our supervisors are in a hurry. 
Why? Because they need the job done. 
Why? Because they don´t like to give explanations. 
Why? Because they may be under evaluated. So the problem is originated by the trimestral evaluations right? But wait, what if we dive a little bit?

What if the issue isn´t due to the evaluations?
The issue must be due to the training program right?

Ok, will see what the 5 whys reveal.

Lack of training on new personnel.
Why? Because the training program isn´t properly designed. 
Why? Because it was designed by HR. 
Why? Because no operator or supervisor was involved. 
Why? Because they were busy. Why? because they didn´t have time. 
Why? Because needed to get the jobs done. Wow! this tool is really efficient right?. Both analysis lead to the semestral evaluation. So if we wanted to fix this issue, all we have to do is get rid of the semestral evaluations.

That would have been the answer if we didn´t have evidence. Note that I just conducted this analysis just with assumptions. The action on eliminating the semestral evaluations would have an effect on the organization. No doubt about it, but I`m not sure that would have an impact on claims.

I asked why to the supervisor, and he replied:

"Because the people with higher mistakes, are experienced people and relatively new people, look". And showed his graph were it was clear that something in the process apart from training, was causing the claims. But the  evidence suggested that training, even though, might be susceptible of improvement was´t the primary source of variation creating claims. Everybody agreed and we moved on to the next possible cause.

Thank`s for reading. If you liked this post, please share. If you do not agree with me, please share some knowledge. If you didn´t like it, please tell me why. That´s how we can improve.

miércoles, 2 de septiembre de 2015

Having the right tools to succeed .

A year ago, I was making some improvements to a small laboratory where steel was tested for both, physical and mechanical properties. One young engineer told me, while we were changing the layout for each of our desks:

"You know, somebody told me once, that you are as good as the tools at your disposal".

I didn´t truly believe this back then, but a few months later and even now, I totally agree. It is true that to be successful in life and at work, you need to have the right tools at the right time. Not only tools, but also the right systems, the right thinking and the right people to perform.

When I was a quality Engineer working as Chassis VRT, one of my responsibilities was to check for vehicle´s alignment on a daily basis. I used to check SPC charts for each and everyone of the alignment characteristics. I used to spend like two hours everyday analyzing, identifying trends, making decisions wether or not make and adjustment on alignment pits. Used to check for CpK, special cause variation, common cause variation, and the usual stuff you should check when using SPC to understand what´s going on with the process, as you can learn if you read Understanding Variation: The key to managing chaos which is a great book that helps to really understand what data is telling you. Anyway, I´m not here to discuss how great this book is. Instead I want to reflect my thoughts on the tools to be really effective. So, back to cars alignment, even though it was kind of boring and it was really a routine, now looking back, it was pretty cool. Because the information was at my disposal anytime, real time. So if I was having a trouble with alignment and decided to make and adjustment, almost immediately could see the effect of that adjustment on my SPC chart. I used to ask to the SPC coordinator to increase the sample to validate if my decision was right or wrong. 

IMR Chart from Minitab. The ones that I used to analyze alignment
were almost identical to this one.
This approach of discipline and careful analysis lead to the cars under my responsibility to be number one within Ford´s lineup in Northamerica, regarding alignment. But this success isn´t entirely mine. Have to give credit to the company who had the right tools at the right time for me to perform. Without an SPC program would have been very difficult to understand what was happening on the floor. Without a system that would give me information on real time, would´t have been able to detect problems and correct quickly to protect the customer. Without the person, doing the audit, couldn't write on my resume that I lead that car line to be the best in NA for alignment. My message isn´t that you need a fancy software, spend millions on a system for you to be successful. But to recognize that if you want to perform, need the right tools at the right time. Ford used a software to gather data. But could it be a sheet of paper instead of the fancy software to record the data? Of course it could! Could it be that the operator doing alignment, performed the audit as well? Hell no! cycle time wouldn´t have allowed. Also, alignment audit needs to be really precise and  at that time, cycle time was 10 min. per vehicle. 

Many companies fail to recognize this simple statement, and embark in a journey to practice lean without a foundation to sustain and to get the best of it. Do not change the old managerial practices or just want to implement tools, without changing their minds. Some others want to adopt a 6 sigma approach, without SPC programs, without tools to help the practitioner to perform analysis in a quick manner. Or without a data base to simply extract information for analysis. 

Organizations need to stop thinking that simplicity means austerity. Some do not want to expend on tools that are necessary for the workers to perform. In my example regarding vehicle´s alignment, I felt it was my responsibility to perform and respond, since I had everything I needed to get results. For me not getting results under those circumstances, meant failure. That´s the kind of engagement and pride we could introduce in the life of workers. As Mark Graban explains so well on his blog, on the book The Good Jobs Strategy many successful organizations prove that investing on the right things will benefit the bottom line.
Have you ever felt like don`t have the tools you need to perform? How is that making you feel? If you do have the tools to perform, Do you feel compelled to success? Please join the discussion and share your thoughts.

Thanks for reading, will be in touch.

jueves, 20 de agosto de 2015

The power of Going to Gemba

Going to Gemba I think allows the opportunity not only to see for your own eyes, but also to connect with those on the floor performing a job. More than a tool, I believe is a State of Mind. I have a great story to illustrate my point. 
It was during my years at Ford, one manager used to force the engineers to spend one day on the line, to experience what the workers live everyday. I remember that I was on the line that day, installing headliners. Felt the heat, the troubles with the electric harness, the physical pain after a couple of hours, and the feedback from the team leader, as some headliners I installed, were incorrectly installed, and I didn't even notice. I also delayed the line as complexity for the high content cars was too much. That experience not only gives credibility, but also knowledge. 
There´s no better way to have an engineer validating his own work, than challenging himself, and performing under the standards, tools and conditions he created. 

Of course wasn't easy, as the risk of having too much defects, lines stoppages and problems, caused by unexperienced engineers performing assembly tasks, was high. But that's one of the best experiences I have experienced. Of course, it is a little bit different from a Gemba walk, where observing for improvement is the main idea.  Anyway, the intention isn't discuss wether this example is really a Gemba walk or not, but to connect that idea to the following situation. If you ever visited Mexico City would understand that driving here is a real challenge. As streets are poorly designed, drivers are careless and rude and basically, law isn't really respected. A few months ago, I posted this picture on twitter, stating it was a waste, having a green light with a police officer there controlling the traffic. 
Total Waste having a policemen controlling traffic and a green light actually working

I recall this and bring the Gemba concept to the table, cause recently a morning show had a story on the people who controls the red lights in Mexico City. As my wife knows well, I think that the person who controls the traffic lights in Mexico has no idea what he´s doing, Why? Because, most streets do not have synchronized traffic lights, and of course, there are some crossings where traffic lights actually create chaos and that´s one of the reasons why a cop needs to be placed in front of the traffic to control the ruthless drivers in the city. I remember that the story that appeared on T.V. showed a bunch of people looking at TV screens and adjusting as needed. As if they were Sauron looking through the eye, watching over the middle earth. Remember thinking that those guys must have never gone out to validate if the work they do through tv screens, actually works in real life. 
Through my brief career , I have seen many people who really hates going to Gemba. Which is really sad, because going to Gemba not only allows you to validate your work. But really gives you the opportunity to learn something, to connect with the people and to grow as a person first, and second, as a professional.

Gemma  gives you the opportunity to learn, to connect, to grow as a person first and then as a professional.